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Key Concepts of Mishlei 07-02 (A Lack of Wisdom)
What happens when a person neglects Wisdom? He becomes vulnerable to the forces of temptation. These forces are present in the world around us and also exist within every person.
In this segment Mishlei provides us with a window into the soul to help us see the deterioration of character that can occur under the influence of the yetzer hara (the evil inclination). The yetzer hara is a force that Hashem put into every man as a character-building challenge. When a man is short of wisdom he is unable to withstand that test.
Mishlei visualizes himself looking through that imaginary window to see what happens when a young man, lacking wisdom, puts aside his learning and wanders out into the world.
The young man decides to take a walk, perhaps thinking that this will clear his head. But his unspoken fantasies are already having an effect, drawing him to the vicinity of the house of prostitution. He strolls around the area, “killing time” until darkness descends. At that point, immoral behavior which would not be tolerated in the light of day enters the realm of possibility.
(ו) כִּי בְּחַלּוֹן בֵּיתִי בְּעַד אֶשְׁנַבִּי נִשְׁקָפְתִּי: (ז) וָאֵרֶא בַפְּתָאיִם אָבִינָה בַבָּנִים נַעַר חֲסַר לֵב: (ח) עֹבֵר בַּשּׁוּק אֵצֶל פִּנָּהּ וְדֶרֶךְ בֵּיתָהּ יִצְעָד: (ט) בְּנֶשֶׁף בְּעֶרֶב יוֹם בְּאִישׁוֹן לַיְלָה וַאֲפֵלָה:
(6) [It is necessary to guard against temptation] for from the window of my house, through my grilled window, I have been seen. (7) And I observed [moral weakness] among the simple-minded. I discerned among [the good] sons a lad who lacks wisdom, (8) passing through the marketplace, near her corner, in the direction of her house. (9) At twilight in the early evening, [and then later] in the blackness of night and darkness.
However, the young man is sufficiently inhibited by his upbringing to avoid taking any overt action. Such action does not occur until an external force of temptation, in the form of the “strange woman” confronts him. She has picked up on his unspoken signal of “availability” and begins the process of seduction. The process and its tragic consequences are discussed in the coming segment.
(ו) כִּי בְּחַלּוֹן בֵּיתִי
When wisdom is lacking, people are vulnerable to the powerful forces of temptation. I know this for — –כִּי I have seen the world from the window of my house — בְּחַלּוֹן בֵּיתִי . One doesn’t need to travel far from home to see evidence of human frailty. And that evidence is visible within each person if he takes the effort to look.
בְּעַד אֶשְׁנַבִּי נִשְׁקָפְתִּי:
Thus, through my grilled window — בְּעַד אֶשְׁנַבִּי , which provides a focused view of human weaknesses, I have been seen — –נִשְׁקָפְתִּי by my own mind’s eye. [That is, I effectively saw myself and my own vulnerabilities.]
(ז) וָאֵרֶא בַפְּתָאיִם
אָבִינָה בַבָּנִים נַעַר חֲסַר לֵב:
And I observed — –וָאֵרֶא many examples of moral weakness among the simple-minded people — –בַפְּתָאיִם of all ages, among men who are not shrewd enough to cover up their inappropriate behavior. But then, upon looking more closely I discerned that among those who seemed to be the good sons — אָבִינָה בַבָּנִים , there is a particular lad who lacks wisdom — –נַעַר חֲסַר לֵב and is destined for trouble.
(ח) עֹבֵר בַּשּׁוּק אֵצֶל פִּנָּהּ
וְדֶרֶךְ בֵּיתָהּ יִצְעָד:
Instead of devoting himself to learning Torah he decides to take a walk for he is open to “adventure.” He is fully aware that the house of the “strange woman” is located in the vicinity. And so he continues nonchalantly passing through the marketplace — עֹבֵר בַּשּׁוּק , but the path he chooses is near her corner — אֵצֶל פִּנָּהּ . And so, although he seems to be dawdling, his footsteps lead in the direction of her house — וְדֶרֶךְ בֵּיתָהּ יִצְעָד . He walks slowly, enjoying every footstep, because he secretly hopes to catch a glimpse of her, having convinced himself that he is in control of himself and therefore is not at risk. But by his actions, which are innocent on the surface, he inadvertently signals to her that he might be responsive if she approached him.
(ט) בְּנֶשֶׁף בְּעֶרֶב יוֹם
בְּאִישׁוֹן לַיְלָה וַאֲפֵלָה:
All this happens at twilight — –בְּנֶשֶׁף in the early evening — בְּעֶרֶב יוֹם , when there are still people about so that his foolishness does not result in tragedy. But he is caught up in his fantasies and so he continues to stroll about. Thus, at nightfall he is still in the vicinity in the blackness of night and darkness — בְּאִישׁוֹן לַיְלָה וַאֲפֵלָה .
ו – אבן עזרא, אלשיך, אבן יחייא, מצודות, מלבי”ם, דבר ירושלים
ז – רש”י, אלשיך, אבן יחייא, מלבי”ם, תבונת משלי
ח – אלשיך, אבן יחייא, תבונת משלי
ט – אלשיך, מלבי”ם